Can Man United Secure Alexis Sanchez Signature?

According to various reports Arsenal’s squad have become increasingly annoyed by the Alexis Sanchez situation and many of them probably wouldn’t shed a tear if he leaves the Emirates this month.

The Gunners board and manager Arsene Wenger might be willing to cash in on the want away star, instead of getting zilch for the Chilean in the summer.

With Manchester City seemingly ruling out a move for the player due to excessive monetary demands, it now looks as though Manchester United might swoop in for the forward.

In fact the Old Trafford club are now 2/7 favourites in the betting markets to become Sanchez’ next employer. If you want to put money on that, then head to Bonus Expert for the best offers available.

It might not be plain sailing for Jose Mourinho if he’s going to complete the deal to bring Alexis in before the end of the transfer window.

First off, he needs to convince the attacker that United offer him the perfect platform for his abilities and a place where he can win trophies.

The reason Man City appealed to Sanchez was Citizens boss Pep Guardiola. The two worked together at Barcelona and Pep’s free flowing attacking style would suit Alexis down to the ground.

Mourinho on the other hand is seen as a more pragmatic coach, one who probably demands more from his stars defensively than Guardiola would expect.

Then Alexis would need to find out where Jose was going to play him.

At Arsenal, the Chilean international has been mainly deployed through the middle as a number ten. He could get that role at Man Utd behind Romelu Lukaku but he may worry that the Red Devils manager might stick him out on one of the wings, where he’s involved less and isn’t quite as effective.

In fairness to Jose Mourinho, he’s making a big play for Sanchez and has been very complimentary about the player in the press:

‘What we believe really is there are some players in football world if you have the chance to sign them in January, in March or in July, you have to try and that’s it.’

‘But in relation to Alexis Sanchez I don’t say a word, the only word I can say is he is a phenomenal player, apart from that an Arsenal player and I feel I shouldn’t say much more than this.’

You then have to factor in Man United playmaker Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

According to the Armenian’s agent he’s being used as a makeweight in any move for Sanchez and if he decides against going to London then the deal is off.

Obviously it makes sense for both teams if they can trade the pair. Mkhitaryan has great talents and can unlock defences, he’s a player that Wenger would fancy in his team. While United could lower the transfer fee and offload a major earner off the wage bill.

I personally don’t think the move hinges totally on Henrikh agreeing to the move but I can’t see why he’d stay at Old Trafford if he knew his playing time was going to be severely limited.

Are Man City just biding their time? They have said they won’t pay over the odds but they might be hoping that Alexis’ urge to play for Pep again. Chelsea are also said to be monitoring the situation.

If I were a betting man, I think money might talk this month and United will get their man but we might see a few more twists yet!

It’s Great To See Andrew Robertson Finally Shining At Liverpool

I wasn’t overly surprised that Liverpool managed to be the first team to beat Manchester City in the Premier League this season.

Jurgen Klopp’s side have a fast, flowing game that can unsettle any side, it’s worked in the past against other teams in the top six.

The main thing that pleased me with the Reds impressive win was Andrew Robertson’s fine performance at left full-back.

I’ve been a long admirer of the Scottish left back, ever since his Queen’s Park days in Scotland’s bottom tier.

The twenty-three year old always gives his all. He must have been frustrated by the lack of game time in the first half of the season but he’s making the most of his chance now.

He showed fantastic energy and tenacity as he pressed at every opportunity. At one point he was even on top of Man City’s goalkeeper and their left-back.

Robertson is great bombing forward and he also has a terrific ability when delivering dangerous crosses into the opponent’s penalty area. He gives his teammates a great outlet when the burst into attacking mode.

Against league leaders Manchester City, Robertson also impressed defensively. The international managed to keep Raheem Sterling quiet, which is no mean feat this term.

On Sunday; he made more clearances (seven) and the most tackles (seven). This shows us that he is learning the way Klopp wants him to play when he’s playing for the Reds.

Alberto Moreno started the season well enough but in all truthfulness the Spaniard has let Liverpool down in games that have counted in the past.

After his performance against City, Robertson has shown Jurgen Klopp that he can trust the full-back and he’s ready to shine at one of England’s biggest clubs.

The left-back was understandably delighted with everything on Sunday and reserved special praise for the home support:

I started this by stating I wasn’t surprised by Liverpool’s victory over Pep Guardiola’s men. I should also say that Sunday’s performance from Andy Robertson didn’t surprise me either.

I’ve watched throughout his career as he’s made step-up after step-up and shone at every opportunity as he met every challenge head on. He has the determination and the tenacity to succeed, even at the highest level.

To think he only cost the Merseyside club a paltry £8m!

Let’s hope he just continues to go from strength to strength at Anfield after patiently waiting for his chance.

Why Rangers Bids Aren’t Particularly Derisory Or Unsettling

Various media reports are suggesting that Rangers have made moves for Greg Docherty and Jordan Jones from fellow Scottish Premiership sides Hamilton Accies and Kilmarnock.

Supposedly the bids were between £300k and £350k each for the duo and both bids were knocked back.

The offers have been called low and derisory by some, with former Gers and current Killie hitman Kris Boyd being publicly critical of the bids:

“There’s one club unsettling everybody; if they want players then pay the money and come and take them.”

“There’s calls been made and nothing has been backed up to do something about it. Pay the money and take the players if you want them. It’s easy to unsettle players now. Everyone knows everyone and we know how it works.”

“This club is not in the position where it needs to sell and it certainly won’t give away one of its assets for next to nothing. If Rangers want Jordan they’ll need to pay the money.”

I find it laughable that Boyd of all people decided to come out say that just one club is out there unsettling everyone.

This is coming from a footballer who is also a TV pundit for SKY. His Chris Sutton-eseque opinions have caused plenty of upset in Scottish football this term. He has slated various current Scottish internationals in Scotland’s top flight and he also upset Hibs boss Neil Lennon by suggesting John McGinn had played his last game for the Easter Road side in August (McGinn stayed).

Boyd also stated his shock that Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes had the right to turned down a Gers approach late last year:

“Derek has decided to stay at Aberdeen and that’s a surprise to everybody because the majority in Scotland thought he would have gone to Rangers, myself included.”

It seems that Rangers upsetting personnel and him jumping on the bandwagon is fine, until it comes to Kilmarnock.

I always find it funny when Scottish sides reject bids and saying they were too low or derisory. It must make the agents of those players interested rub their hands with glee because you are saying that they are worth a lot of money and they’ll want you to prove that with bumper wages.

Now Boyd is quick to called Jones an asset and an international player, he’s backed up ny Killie boss Steve Clarke but let me ask them this ‘Are you paying him what he’s worth?‘.

Clarke was quick to say that if he were Jordan that he’d be miffed that Rangers offered such a sum for his services, so again will Kilmarnock offer him a better wage? Plus when was the last time Kilmarnock offered that sum for a player?

Then we have to remember the market we are dealing with, the Scottish Premiership isn’t regarded as a top league and fees reflect that.

When Virgil van Dijk left Celtic he went for just £13m (with the seal-on clause that raised to around £20m this month). That’s a significant sum but nothing compared to the £75m Liverpool paid Southampton for him. Is he much better now than he was at Celtic? Not really, he just has Premier League experience now.

You’ll not get premium prices for players in Scotland’s top flight, it’s a sad reality. Although I think it could be changing, albeit slowly. The key in selling any top talent is by putting in a sell-on clause!

When it comes to putting bids in for players, Rangers will only offer what they can afford and what they value the target at. The player’s current club can look at it and decide on if it’s acceptable or not.

By all means protect yourself and your asset but let’s not go on about unsettling players as you talking publicly only intensifies the situation. Plus watch the agents come to your door and ask for wages that reflect your valuation.

As Kris Boyd said, we know how it works when it comes to football.

If a club really wants a player then they will go all out to get him. If they think they can get them on the cheap, then they’ll try and do a deal. If the current employer doesn’t want to sell then they reject the offer, if they are willing to sell at a certain price then they’ll name that price. If they really want to keep the player then they will offer him a new deal.

Are Celtic Coasting Or Coming Back Stronger?

Celtic ended 2017 in somewhat humdrum style with a 0-0 draw against Glasgow rivals Rangers.

They also dropped points against Hibs and lost to Anderlecht in December. Without doubt the biggest result was the Hoops 4-0 loss to Hearts in the Scottish Premiership, their first domestic defeat since Brendan Rodgers became the club’s manager in the summer of 2016.

Rodgers admitted his team needed a rest:

“I think the group very much look in need of a break,”

“It is obvious in terms of the number of games we have played and everything that goes into it.”

The winter break couldn’t have arrived at a better time for the Celtic squad. They’ve went over to Dubai and worked hard in the sun.

In the transfer market, defender Marvin Compper has arrived from RB Leipzig.

Defensively Celtic have looked weak at times and definitely needed a new face to bolster numbers. Will he add something different? Well the big test will be the tie against Zenit St Petersburg in February.

Young winger Lewis Morgan also signed up this month but he’ll remain at St Mirren for the rest of this campaign.

Another boost could be the imminent return of Patrick Roberts. The loanee attacker is a huge fan favourite but his season has been hampered by a problem-some  hamstring injury. The Englishman was out training in Dubai and he’ll be hoping to make a first team return soon.

The Scottish champions have also, so far, managed to keep all their stars at the club with Moussa Dembele, Jozo Simunovic and Erik Sviatchenko all linked with moves away. You’d imagine if any of them left this month, then Celtic will need to reinvest on a replacement.

All in all, Rodgers seems to have decided that the pool doesn’t need too much tinkering and that a break in the sun will see them return to the invincible ways.

Other Premiership sides have decided to take on a friendly or two. That’s allowed them to stay match sharp and gain confidence with decent results.

The other club’s have also bolstered their numbers with new recruits, it’s as if they believe they have something to aim for in the second half of the season.

I was surprised by the subdued Celtic performance at Celtic Park on the 30th of December against Rangers. I was expecting more, they certainly didn’t look the same as they did throughout the 2016-17 season.

It will be interesting to see Celtic return from the break and how they do.

They won’t drop eight points to Aberdeen, so I believe the league title will be returning to Glasgow’s east end. But can they retain the treble? Will they go undefeated for the rest of the domestic campaign? Can they advance in the Europa League?

Brendan Rodgers has set extremely high standards since his arrival in Glasgow. It will be interesting to see if his low key approach this winter will see his side peak yet again in the season run-in.

Partnership With Scottish Supporters Network

This week I started a new collaboration with the Scottish Supporters Network in conjunction with Supporters Direct Scotland.

The project will include both written and video work. It’ll be concentrating on Scottish football and more socially responsible content regarding our game.

I’m looking forward to the new debates and the issues that will create them.

My first four articles are now on the Scottish Supporters Network site:

Pie And A Pint – My idea for bringing alcohol back to the stands in Scottish football stadia – http://www.scottishsupporters.net/pie-and-a-pint/

Standing Up For Hampden – While so many seem to hate our national stadium here’s my defence of it – http://www.scottishsupporters.net/standing-up-for-hampden/

Dean Shiels Abuse Isn’t Right And Shouldn’t Be Tolerated – Looking at the recent disgusting abuse received by Dean Shiels – http://www.scottishsupporters.net/dean-shiels-abuse-isnt-right-and-shouldnt-be-tolerated/

Who Should Be The Next Scotland Manager – A look at possible contenders for the national manager’s job – http://www.scottishsupporters.net/who-will-be-the-next-scotland-manager/

Could Liverpool End Transfer Window Stronger Even Without Coutinho?

If the grapevine’s true then Philippe Coutinho could be leaving Liverpool in a £142m move to FC Barcelona.

The Brazilian is without doubt a world class talent but he was angling after this switch all summer and he seems to have picked up another ‘injury’ just in time for the transfer window reopening.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp must be sick to the back teeth of discussing Coutinho’s future and will probably be relieved if the number ten does leave this month.

When Liverpool sell a top star like Fernando Torres, Michael Owen or a Raheem Sterling, the club usually move on effectively if not successfully.

They did struggle though when they sold Luis Suarez (also to Barcelona) in 2014. They didn’t have a match winner who came close to being as good as the Uruguayan and the signing of Mario Balotelli was horrendous.

If I had to make a guess, I think Liverpool will be able to handle selling Brazilian maestro Coutinho like they did with Torres and Owen.

It’s not that Philippe is any poorer than he has been in the past, it’s more to do with the forward line that Klopp has at his disposal, the potential replacements and other areas of the squad being strengthen this month too.

Virgil van Djik has finally arrived at Anfield and looks to have settled in straight away. He made his debut in the Merseyside derby last night and he scored the winner in the FA Cup tie too. He was good coming away with the ball, passing it forward and winning tackles. The Dutchman has made various step-ups in his career to date and cleared them all. It looks no different now he’s the world’s most expensive defender!

Liverpool need consistency at the back, Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip couldn’t seem to offer that as a partnership and opponents took advantage of it. Virgil will look to change that with his aerial ability and his quick thinking at the back.

The form of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah has been superb this term. The fluidity the front three offer means that Coutinho has been often played in a deeper position this term. Salah has been sensational since his summer arrival and his goals have propelled the Reds back into the top four positions.

Liverpool also have Dominic Solanke and Daniel Sturridge in the pool to call upon if they need something different up top. They could possibly even allow Sturridge to depart this month and still look good in the attacking areas.

Adam Lallana’s return to fitness also gives Klopp a timely new year’s boost. The England attacking midfielder has the vision to create chances and the ability to run into dangerous positions. He’s not to the standards of Coutinho but he gives you plenty of endeavour and will work hard getting back too.

It should be noted that summer signing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is starting to find his groove at Anfield and Klopp will believe that he’ll only improve as the season continues.

Then there’s the possible replacements that could come in and replace Coutinho.

AS Monaco star Thomas Lemar has been heavily linked with a move to Anfield. I don’t think he’d be a like for like replacement but he would provide assists. He’d also offer more pace for a counter attacking style.

You then have Riyad Mahrez. The Leicester City man has proven himself as a Premier League match winner again this term. He possess the vision and creativity that changes games and also a keen eye for goal. Another plus in Mahrez favour is that he wouldn’t be cup-tied for the Champions League.

Another possibility could be Liverpool going for PSG playmaker Julian Draxler. The German is clearly not seen as a regular starter in Paris but in ten Ligue 1 starts he’s picked up two goals and three assists. His passing success rate is phenomenal, he is a threat with his set-piece taking ability and is another counter attack threat. He may also be available for just £4om!

If Liverpool were to sell a footballer who clearly doesn’t want to be there anymore and replace him with a creative talent who is hungry to prove himself, then I don’t see the problem.

Actually add a playmaker or a maestro to this already strong Liverpool squad then I think they could be better off than they were in December. Add a new goalkeeper to that mix and then it could be a stunning transfer window for Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp.

Andy Carroll To Chelsea Would Makes Sense For The Blues

Recent newspaper stories have speculated that Premier League champs Chelsea could be about to make a swoop for West Ham United striker Andy Carroll.

Given the forward’s injury issues some might be surprised by the link but a move for the big man could make sense.

At Chelsea the English international wouldn’t be used as the club’s number one striker, he’d by a back-up for Alvaro Morata.

With that role, comes less demands on twenty-eight year old’s body. He will have less game time but that could be ideal for him to have more impact.

By playing with a title challenger and not a relegation threatened side, He should get more chances to shine in front of goal and that could see him earn a spot in Gareth Southgate’s World Cup squad.

His performance against West Brom at the start of the year showed potential suitors that he can still terrorise defences and change games!

When you look at Morata’s goals this season, the majority have come from his head. That shows the this current Chelsea side provide plenty of aerial ammunition and that would be ideal for Andy.

According to Blues boss Antonio Conte, Alvaro Morata has been suffering from fatigue issues over the Christmas period and still getting used to regular starts in the Premier League:

‘But don’t forget for Alvaro this is the first time he’s played regularly because he didn’t play regularly with Juventus or Real Madrid.’

His outing against Arsenal last Wednesday night wasn’t his best as he squandered quite a few decent chances.

The Spaniard may be the club’s top scorer with twelve goals but he only has three in his last ten outings. Conte doesn’t seem to have a lot of confidence in Michy Batshuayi, so bringing in Carroll could  ease the pressure on that front.

Antonio Conte was heavily linked with Fernando Llorente in the last two transfer windows, the Italian clearly likes physical frontmen who can change things when it counts.

Getting an attacker who is proven in the English top flight would be a huge plus for Chelsea in this window.

Andy Carroll would fit the bill as long as he’s fit enough to contribute and understands that he’s there to be a super sub.

Time For Martial And Rashford To Step Up At Manchester United

Jose Mourinho would have wanted a better ending to 2017 for his Manchester United side.

They’ve recently lost to rivals Manchester City, they have dropped down to third place in the Premier League behind last season’s league champions Chelsea and now they’ve seen strikers Romelu Lukaku and Zlatan Ibrahimovic suffer from injuries.

Belgian hitman Lukaku was taken off on a stretcher against Southampton yesterday, during their 0-0 draw. While Jose has stated that Zlatan is carrying a knee injury and will be out for a month.

That means that the Red Devils will probably be missing last season’s top goalscorer and the club’s current leading marksman for the next few weeks.

That will mean more responsibility will fall onto the shoulders of young forwards Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford.

Both talents will want to have a run in the team playing up-top. For much of this campaign the youngsters have had to settle for a place on the wing or on the bench.

Now they have a chance to shine as the central striker and one, if not both, will have to stand up and take the opportunity with both hands.

United’s recent loss of form can’t continue if they want to stay in the Top Four and sustain a challenge in the Champions League.

They haven’t won in their last four outings and have scored less than City and Liverpool so far this year.

Rashford could get the nod as he was the one that Mourinho turned to last season when Zlatan missed the end of that term due to his first significant injury. The young English international repaid the faith with mature performances that included assists as well as goals as United secured the Europa League title.

The twenty year old has scored just four league goals this term but he’s mainly found himself out on the left wing. In his three appearances through the middle Marcus has scored one in return.

Rashford offers a more disciplined performance and Jose likes that from his players.

But Anthony Martial has made a case of being the main striker too.

This season, the French forward has six goals and yet he’s only started ten times in the Premier League, he has only started once in the middle. He has also contributed with three assists for teammates.

His pace and his instinct in front of goal makes him potentially a world class centre-forward. The twenty-two year old seems to have his focus back and hungry to prove himself.

Both Man United stars need to watch the transformation of City duo Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane and try and replicate that at Old Trafford.

They’ve been waiting for this opportunity to prove themselves as strikers under Jose Mourinho and while it’s sad to see fellow pros out injured, they need to make sure that they aren’t missed and that Manchester United can survive with out them and return to winning ways.

Rangers Defence Has A New Yardstick After Celtic Game!

Rangers managed to pick up a second draw from Celtic Park this year as they held the Scottish Premiership leaders to a 0-0 draw.

In truth, today’s performance was probably the best showing from Rangers in an Old Firm match since rejoining Scotland’s top flight.

It was a very strong team performance and they looked solid throughout the game.

In particular, it was in the defensive areas that The Gers looked at their best and they need to produce more displays like that in the future.

The back four played as a well drilled unit and that’s even after veteran defender Bruno Alves departed in the first half due to injury. His replacement, youngster David Bates, came in and didn’t look out of place.

Alongside a rejuvenated Danny Wilson, the centre-back duo made sure they limited Moussa Dembele and Leigh Griffiths to very few chances. Wilson and Bates were strong in the tackle, blocked a lot of shots, good in the air and didn’t commit too many fouls.

When the Celtic forward line did breach the Gers defence, goalkeeper Wes Foderingham was there to give his best Andy Goram impression. His clawed save to prevent Dedryck Boyata scoring from a looping header was simply fantastic.

Declan John has been very impressive since he arrived from Cardiff City and he once again showed why it made sense to sign him up permanently this month. He’s very focused defensively and can get forward to help the attack when required. John did his bit in keeping a talented James Forrest quiet.

For me, that was James Tavernier’s best game as a Rangers player. The Englishman has always been good going forward but he’s often been criticised for his defensive contribution (or the lack of it!).

Yet today, right-back Tavernier was quick to nip in and nick the ball away from Scott Sinclair. He’d get the ball with inch perfect timing in the challenge and wasn’t caught out when he went forward.

He still bombed forward but he picked his moments perfectly and was still one of his side’s biggest assets in attacking areas. He had a chance and provided good crosses from wide areas.

For the first time since Brendan Rodgers has arrived at Celtic, the Gers midfield stood up to the challenge and weren’t overrun in the engine room.

It’s worth noting that Rangers tried to press further up the field in the second half and that’s when they were at their best and Celtic were at their worst.

It should also be said that Rangers didn’t park the bus at Parkhead. They managed to create good chances and made Craig Gordon work for his cleansheet.

The Hoops weren’t at their best but they still went for it and Rangers did well containing them for the most part.

Interim manager Graeme Murty deserves praise for getting big performances from his team in the bigger games, both Mark Warburton and Pedro Caixinha struggle in those important outings. It’s also not surprising that former Scotland international defender Murty has managed to get more from the defensive minded players in his squad.

Murty summed the game up well after the final whistle:

“They had moments in the first half where we were fortunate and made good blocks, good saves. But we had opportunities to go and win the game. I’m really proud of the way the players stood up to a big challenge at a great stadium”

What the caretaker boss needs to do now, is get more consistency from his side. There’s no point getting points against the better performing teams to then lose against weaker opponents.

Today, Rangers laid down a marker on how they need to defend and they need to do it in every game. They were strong, disciplined, worked hard and had high concentration levels. It shows everyone at Ibrox that hard graft will be rewarded as long as you defend as a team from back to front.

Virgil Van Dijk Needs To Be An Instant Star At Liverpool!

It has been announced that Liverpool will finally sign Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk when the January transfer window opens.

The deal dragged on during the summer with The Saints unhappy with The Reds over their public pursuit of the Dutch internationalist. Liverpool apologised and withdrew from the bidding and the player was unhappy that his dream move fell through, he was told to train by himself until the summer window closed in September.

Obviously things have changed dramatically this week, I’m guessing the world record £75m fee for a defender has won favour with the Southampton board.

Now with that huge fee comes expectation.

We all know Liverpool’s defensive line has been suspect so far this term. No top six side in the Premier League has conceded more than the twenty-three strikes Liverpool have in this campaign.

Central defender Van Dijk will be expected to shore things up at the back.

Virgil certainly has the pedigree. He’s very good in the air, smart in the tackle, quick to intercept dangerous through balls and composed with the ball at his feet. He is also handy at grabbing vital goals too. The Dutchman is fairly dependable and consistent, that can’t be said of the current central defenders at Anfield.

I’d expect Dejan Lovren to be the centre-back that will fear for his position in the Reds side. The Croatian has the ability to do well but he can equally throw in a clanger and cost his team dear. His performance against Tottenham Hotspur was woeful at best and he was hauled off after just half an hour.

Virgil will be seen as the answer to the defensive problems that have hampered Jurgen Klopp’s tenure at Anfield. I think his aerial ability and his concentration levels will be the main difference for his new club. For me, he’s one of the best defenders in the air and that should cut out a lot of mistakes at the back when high balls are flung into the Liverpool penalty area.

His composed presence should also see an improved Joel Matip. The Cameroonian defender has done well since his arrival in the summer of 2016 but sometimes looks a wee bit shaky. I think that’s because of playing alongside an erratic Lovren or an average Ragnar Klavan.

Now one issue could be Van Dijk’s form this season, which hasn’t been to the same high standards as it has been in the past. Many will state that’s because his heart was already set on going to Merseyside. That being said he still averages five aerial duels won per Premier League game this year, which is impressive.

Liverpool are currently in those invaluable top four spots, which ensures Champions League qualification for next season if they manage to stay there. Van Dijk will be seen as a star man to keep them in that position.

Unfortunately for the defensive marvel, he’ll have no bedding in period. There’ll be no room for mistakes. He has to arrive with all guns blazing and put in performances that show Liverpool are a more solid unit with him in the backline.

I’ve seen Virgil van Dijk since his Celtic days and the player has proven that he’s very capable at making jump ups in his standards and improving defences that he’s in. I expect him to do the same at Anfield.

The player certainly seems up for the task:

“Delighted and honoured to have agreed to become a Liverpool FC player. Today is a proud day for me and my family as I join one of the biggest clubs in world football.

“I can’t wait to pull on the famous red shirt for the first time in front of the Kop and will give everything I have to try and help this great club achieve something special in the years to come.”